Parks Council Success Garden
Harlem Success Garden
This segment of 134th Street honors Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955), whose life work mirrors the way this garden has functioned in central Harlem.
Mary McLeod Bethune crusaded tirelessly for crusaded for education, particularly for African-American women. Bethune presided over the now Bethune-Cookman College from 1904-1942 and 1946-1947. She also founded the Daytona Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls in Florida, armed only with $1.50 and a handful of students. Her faith and drive for teaching surpassed the meager resources she had starting out: a vacant house with trash-picked packing crates for chairs and desks, and “meat wrapping paper from the butcher store for paper.” As a civil rights leader, she fought against discrimination by founding the National Council of Negro Women. She held high-level positions during the administrations of presidents Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933), Herbert Hoover (1874-1964), and Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945).
This Success Garden was the Parks Council’s first in a growing series of partnerships with local schools. The non-governmental organization orchestrated this park's construction in response to its 1989 survey, which proved the need to provide hands-on environmental study for school children. The Parks Council has wielded its mission to preserve green urban spaces for all city residents since the turn of the twentieth century, although in the guise of several different organizations. Founded in 1970, the current Parks Council inherited that cause and a radically expanded parks system in the wake of Robert Moses's (1888-1981) tenure. This system, while exponentially increasing the amount of parks and playgrounds available to New Yorkers, did not ensure that these facilities would be equal in quality and safety. The Parks Council continued to advocate for “services delivered not based on a neighborhood's ability to invest privately, but on the understanding that all communities and residents deserve equal treatment.”
Education then fit into the Council's efforts to enhance park benefits in overlooked areas. Just as in the Council's vision, students from P.S./I.S. 175 across the street designed this park alongside an architect from Parks. Operation GreenThumb and the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) helped the Council to get the parkland, which spreads over three tangential lots. The garden's large fishpond is at the rear of the property. The pond's stepping-rock bridge leads from the stone slab's grape-vine shaded benches to vegetable plots all the way in the back. Another garden section houses animal huts, a barbecue pit, benches, and a stage for summer music performances. The shaded audience area gives way to delicate paths connecting the trails and arching trellises near the entrance.
This garden opened in 1991 on 134th Street between Adam Clayton Powell and Malcom X Boulevards. Activities at one time included the study of gardens, mapping projects; weed collection identification, mounting studies, story-telling workshops and community picnics. Dedicated local residents tend an extensive selection of fruits and vegetables including cherry, apple, and pear trees. They grow greens, watermelon, nectarines, and grapes in addition to keeping this garden, which became a park in 1997, clean for learning and relaxation.